The first thing you should know about USC offering a football scholarship to a 13-year-old quarterback is that the NCAA has practically nothing to say about it.
It launched a presidential task force a few years ago to kick around the idea of stopping coaches from offering scholarships to schoolyard players. It even stressed the harmful effects those offers could have on the kids, who might not work as hard afterward.
In the end, it recommended that "an appropriate and complete study should be conducted." In other words, it put the notion to death by committee. The problem for the NCAA, as usual, was enforcement.
So, if the powers that be aren't going to weigh in, and David Sills' parents think it's fine for their son to pick a college before he chooses a high school, and if new USC coach Lane Kiffin thinks he can evaluate a player while his voice is still changing, where does that leave us?
One place it drops us is into a particularly moronic moment in sports history, a time that makes you laugh and feel dirty all at once.
I was feeling as though I needed to take a shower after mulling Sills' verbal commitment, which was first leaked to ESPN's Shelley Smith by Sills' private quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson.
Clarkson, by the way, charges attendees of his camps $750 a pop, according to his Web site. That's nothing compared with what he has collected over the years from the parents of his star pupils, who have included Matt Barkley, Jimmy Clausen and Ben Roethlisberger.
To be honest with you, I think the whole thing's out of whack. There's so much money involved today, so many jobs at stake, that they're identifying guys in the seventh and eighth grades. I don't mean to say the staffs at USC and UCLA are going to Pop Warner games, but they're getting wind of guys way early.
As recently as a few years ago, Pete Carroll wouldn't offer scholarships to juniors. When he realized that could dent his USC empire, which had been built largely by recruiting prowess, he relented. Now, apparently, Kiffin is taking things about as far as they can logically go. But he's not alone. Redell said most elite players' recruiting is practically wrapped up during their junior years.
Maybe in a few years, my 3-year-old will have enough arm strength to catch somebody's eye.
Most of the big-time programs rely on scouting services to feed them tape of elite young players. Private instructors like Clarkson seem to be proliferating. It's a bit reminiscent of how the Eastern bloc countries used to control the Olympics. Identify an athletic kid with sturdy legs; get him or her expert instruction in an academy; and voilà, you've got a gold-medal ski jumper six years later. Never mind that the kid had to live a regimented life away from his family and friends.
Redell is in the business of coaching younger kids than Kiffin coaches, but he won't watch tapes of sixth- and seventh-graders, even though people send him about two per week. Apparently, Kiffin isn't so discriminating.